The Lakers have informed Byron Scott that they will not be picking up his 2016-17 option, which marks the end of a two-year period that saw the Lakers complete franchise-worst losing seasons in consecutive years.
Scott, who was brought in following Mike D’Antoni’s resignation after the 2013-14 season, was the Lakers’ top choice at the time. Many attributed his success in New Jersey to reach the NBA Finals twice and his close ties to the Lakers as key factors that helped him acquire the job.
However, following a tumultuous 2014-15 campaign that saw the Lakers win a mere 21 games, a then-franchise worst with an even more horrendous 17-65 record this past 2015-16 season, fans began to resent the former Laker.
Things only became worse as Scott kept regurgitating the same mediocre comments following losses, throwing his team under the bus calling them “soft” yet toying with crucial minutes that the Lakers’ young core was missing late in games, minutes that could have proved valuable to rookies like Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Jordan Clarkson.
Now, with the off-season in full swing and the post-Kobe Bryant era running on all cylinders, the Lakers stand at a moment of the upmost-importance as this will likely be the last coaching hire the franchise makes before the clock strikes midnight for Jim Buss and his former proposal to step-down if the Lakers aren’t contending soon. This is year two in what has been a three year window.
Whether Buss sticks to his proclamation remains to be seen. All we know is should it hold true, mark this offseason as one of the most important – or better yet, the most important – in what will be now a three-year rebuilding effort.
Aside from possible free-agent targets that the Lakers will attempt to sign once free agency opens on July 1st, the Lakers will have the opportunity to settle on a coach that shares their vision and values camaraderie with their players.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, possible coaching candidates include Luke Walton, Kevin Ollie, Jay Wright, Ettore Messina, and David Blatt, among others.
Walton, who is currently serving as assistant head coach under Steve Kerr for the defending-champion Warriors, has found himself rising to the top of Laker fan hierarchy as a possible successor to Scott.
However, despite his success in leading the Warriors while Kerr recovered from back surgery at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, it remains to be seen if this was directly attributed to Walton’s coaching competency or rather the sheer strength that the Warriors roster has in general.
Ollie, the UConn coach who has been linked with the NBA and coaching vacancies in recent years, will remain a strong force as teams look to make desirable situations to help set up a favorable meeting in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. It has been formerly known that Ollie and Durant share a strong relationship, so this would be a great start for the Lakers.
Jay Wright, current coach of Villanova, has formerly shared that his intent is to remain with the Pennsylvania Wildcats. However, in an interview with Dana O’Neil from ESPN earlier this year, he stopped short of completely dismissing the prospect of coaching in the NBA.
Furthermore, coaches like Ettore Messina and David Blatt are possible candidates as well with Messina currently on the bench for the San Antonio Spurs, serving as assistant coach under Greg Popovich.
There is talk that should Popovich postpone his retirement pending this season’s playoff results, there is a likelihood that Messina may be pried away with head-coaching offers from afar.
Finally, Blatt who was formerly coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers before being let go after taking them to the NBA Finals in his first campaign and achieving a 30-11 record midway through this season, will also be considered for the Lakers vacancy. However, like the rest, it remains to be seen if he will be the right coach for the job.
One thing remains for certain, the Lakers have positioned themselves with a nice cushion as they look to move on from the Byron Scott-era, and for the nearly the third straight time, it will begin with finding the right coach for this young Lakers team.